Tokina’s 16-28mm Prospect

We have been considering several lenses for our next conversion process after the 70-200mm is complete. We started with the Tokina 11-16mm that did very well and thought it would be nice to stick with Tokina. However, Tokina didn’t have any other lenses that met our criteria. Certain specifications had to be met, such as constant, fast aperture, lightweight, internal focus and zoom, optical quality, and a somewhat decent platform to start with mechanically. When I heard about Tokina making a new 16-28mm f/2.8 lens I thought it would be a bit of a short range but still fit well. Then I saw the first photos of the lens and got really excited since it looked almost identical to the 11-16mm. In my head this meant that we could save a ton of time and money on research and development for the conversion parts and simply use the existing parts from our 11-16mm conversion. One step further, Tokina was planning to make this new lens a full frame “Pro” lens, perfect for the 5D.So at this point I’m thinking “Perfect! fast, constant aperture, small, full frame, easy to re-house with existing parts.. Why not!?”. I contacted Tokina and arranged to see one of two demo models in the US. I met with the Tokina rep at a local camera shop where he had the lens in full packaging and everything. As soon as I saw the lens removed from the wrapping I was immediately displeased. The actual housing of the lens, while identical in style to the 11-16mm, was about 20% larger in length and diameter. Not a deal breaker, but substantially disappointing.

Without the option of bringing the lens back to the shop, the best approach was to take measurements of all of the major rings.

Tokina's new 16-28mm next to a Tokina 11-16mm with sun shade on. The 16-28mm is also almost twice the weight of the 11-16mm.

So still a decent candidate with it’s specs, I took a few quick shots with the lens and liked what I could see from a few simple photos. Distortion was as expected, light falloff was almost non-existant, and it was relatively light weight. The Tokina rep wouldn’t let me take the lens with me to evaluate it with proper test equipment, as expected. After telling him I was planning on completely gutting the lens I’m surprised he even let me hold it. So now I had to wait for the lens to become available to the public. There was no way Tokina was going to let me rip apart a demo model. I pre-ordered the lens from several different retailers to ensure I received the lens as early as possible and finally, last week I received notices of shipment. The lens arrived a few days later and I immediately put the lens through the evaluation process. Again to my dismay the lens did not perform so well optically. The corners of the image were fairly soft and even the center had decent resolution but lacked contrast. Even worse was the amount of flare I could see using our test projector. I had pretty much written this lens off as a “pro” lens and booted it from my candidates for conversion and then the other lenses I ordered from different retailers came in. I figured why not try the other lenses just for redundancy. Surprisingly, the second and third lenses I tested were great! The center sharpness was easily 200 lines per millimeter and carried on through to about the APS-C (Super 35mm) coverage where it just barely began to falloff and become just slightly soft. These two later models completely changed my mind. At appears that I just had one bad egg which is acceptable for any manufacturer and not uncommon even for a brand such as Zeiss. Now back in the running, the Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 is a great lens for photography and with a little help from Duclos, an even better lens for motion picture.  …Maybe

5 thoughts on “Tokina’s 16-28mm Prospect

  1. Hi Mathew:

    I love the Tokina lenses starting with the 11-16mm. I will soon send you mine to be rehoused with your excellent mod. There is a lens that I still love which is the Tokina 28-80mm 2.8. That would be a lens that I would like to see modified by Duclos… 🙂
    It is FF and it has a really nice texture although many people don´t like it.
    Thank you for your posts and your excellent mods.

  2. Why not convert the Nikkon 17-35mm f.2.8?

    I have it, and i Love it for documentarywork. It has some extra range versus the Tokina

    1. It’s already been done by Century Precision Optics (now Schneider). We didn’t want to double up on lens conversions.

  3. My tokina 16-28mm focus motor just broke which barely under 5 occasions, QC is a big issues to me!!! I had a 12-24mm before, without the motor is great but the new tokina really disappointed me.

    1. That’s the beauty of our conversions. We’re not concerned with mechanical build quality as much as we are with optical quality. With a conversion, we sort of gut the internals and just use the existing glass, depending on the conversion. So the QC issues with Tokina don’t really carry over to our conversions since we make our own high quality mechanical housings.

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